Jo Eccles is business adviser at the Forum of Private Business.
Small business owners take note: a number of key legislative changes were introduced on October 1 that you should be aware of, including changes to parental leave arrangements and the national minimum wage.
First, the Children and Families Act now allows fathers-to-be and partners of pregnant women to take time off to attend two antenatal appointments with the mother.
A change to the laws surrounding shared parental leave has also been introduced and, while it only applies to parents whose child is born or adopted on or after April 1, 2015, businesses had best start preparing.
The new regulations are designed to allow parents to share care for the child in their first year. In essence, they will both be able to take shared parental leave and claim shared parental pay after the compulsory two-week maternity leave period.
Before taking a block of leave, an employee will have to provide the employer with eight weeks’ notice. The employee can make up to three requests to take leave. Provided the employee has not taken more than 26 weeks of shared parental leave, he or she will have the right to return to the same job.
Also as of last week, consumers have new rights to bring action against traders who use misleading and aggressive practices. If you behave unfairly or in bad faith,your business could now find itself pursued in the civil courts by aggrieved consumers.
Finally, the national minimum wage for workers over the age of 20 has risen by 3% (or 19p), following recommendations by the Low Pay Commission. This is the first higher-than-inflation minimum wage rise in six years.
With maximum penalties of up to £20,000 for non-payment of the minimum wage and the possibility of being publicly named and shamed, it is worth making a note of the new rates: £6.50 per hour for those aged 21 and over; £5.13 per hour for 18 to 20-year-olds; £3.79 per hour for 16 to 17-year-olds; and £2.73 for apprentices.
For further information on the changes, visit fpb.org